Design a scientific textbook that is primarily typographic. Gather copy from existing books or articles and edit them into a cohesive whole with a unified theme. All illustrations and photography must be the original work of the designer.
CHRONOMENON posits a future in which time travel is a practical scientific reality. This hypothetical 184pp casebound book surveys both theory and practice, treating many popular fictional accounts as actual historical events.
Identity + Mark | Illustration | Editorial Design + Layout | Copy Writing + Editing
Time travel is probably the most popular recurring theme in science fiction the world over. I became interested in what a textbook on the subject would look like. My approach was to combine both serious theoretical material with the fantastical accounts that we’ve all become familiar with--from H.G. Wells’ Time Machine, to Doc Brown’s DeLorean and Doctor Who’s TARDIS.
I designed CHRONOMENON to challenge many of my personal visual conventions. The specific constraints of the project (no sourced material) allowed me to explore aspects of more technical illustration that don’t usually characterize my work.
Time is often thought of as the fourth dimension, existing beyond our ideas of up and down in the physical sense. We also view time as both linear (progressing forward) and cyclic (repeating). To evoke this, I developed a series of grids that I then stretched, distorted and warped.
Fans of George Pal's 1960 film adaptation of THE TIME MACHINE may recognize this vehicle's design.
I also generated long strings of random numbers using a special software program, and then sprinkled them throughout the design. They represent the fictional calculation of ‘navigational coordinates’ for time travel. The folio hash marks suggest the incremental ways that we measure time.
To give this imaginary study some basis in fact, I researched particle physics textbooks to find actual equations from formulas related to theoretical work on black holes, wormholes and faster-than-light travel.
The problem with visualizing the future is that the aesthetic is dated before it’s even completed. It was important to choose faces that felt appropriately scientific yet ‘sci-fi’ without appearing too old. Simplicity was key, so there is only one body class and one header class throughout the text.
When Aldo Novarese’s Eurostile debuted in the early sixties, it was very quickly adopted by the aerospace community and also found home in science fiction novel and film artwork. Although about ten years older, Hermann Zapf’s Melior paired well as a serif face because of its comparable x-height and similarly squarish counters.
There is something particularly cold about time and space. I settled on a blue and grey palette to evoke a certain clinical and sterile environment. This is, after all, time travel as a future hard science and not fantasy. Overlapping various blue tints within complex grids provided vibrancy and a dynamic sense of rapid motion without resorting to warmer hues. I also used very light yellow tints to highlight many of the book’s information diagrams and complex theoretical compositions.